Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Alex, Daisy, Mike (Day 3)

There would be a common theme throughout all the exercises and skiing of the day: Lifting the lower leg out of the way and “diverge” the ski – whether to assist a pivoting action or to generate a skating action.

Skiing is built on two basic principles – Skating and Dynamics. Whether this ends up as “pivoting” or “carving” depends mainly on which ski edges are being used and the extent of the dynamics.


Warmer temperatures allowed us to start out focusing on pivoting. Everyone is starting to get the feel for remaining on the inside edge of the foot – while the edge of the ski changes during the turn. Daisy finally actually “heard” this today and understood it. Just practicing this each day for a short while brings big changes in skill levels. The main aim concerning Daisy is to directly work towards replacing her strong tendency to “snowplough” the start of her turns (actually a downhill stem – using the lower ski as a crutch and preventing dynamics) with something much more useful – namely “dynamics” which can be felt at even a low speed and through a range covering the most subtle to the most violent movements.

Alex meanwhile was managing to just stand patiently on his ski and wait for the pivot to take place instead of rushing, twisting and forcing everything. Mike with his wider skis was managing the pivot from a standstill quite easily.  Later on we used bumps for pivoting on – with the ski tips and tails in the air – focusing on leading the pivot by diverging the lower ski into the turn.


Skating skills were built up using a standard progression of exercises beginning with just stepping up sideways uphill – using both uphill edges. This is where there is a good opportunity to feel the feet inside the boots and to feel if there is either grip from the edge or slipping. It also allows the movement of the body to be clearly felt with no other distractions present.

Forward sliding was then added to the side stepping. As soon as the skier slides forwards the ski tries to make an arc – especially very parabolic skis like Mike’s – and this can pull the skier off the edge and cause a loss of grip. The body needs to become sensitive to this issue to be able to correct it and maintain grip. The exercise proceeds by starting off progressively more directly downhill and stepping around across the hill to a stop. The need to “diverge” the skis becomes obvious and is part of the change of direction – with some of the change of direction coming from the skis themselves.

Eventually whole turns are attempted by crossing the fall-line – then turns are linked – stepping continuously. Skating steps are then progressively reduced to only three per turn, then two and finally one – whereby an automatic down/up rhythm is set in place and natural timing – coming from the skating action – is produced. In the video everyone can be seen with this good timing.

Alex is doing very well – with both good skating and dynamics in the video and Daisy starts off well but then when she picks up a bit too much speed and starts pushing her lower ski away as a brake – instead of gripping and displacing her body instead. Mike started out well but bailed out due to being crowded out by someone nearby.

Mike simply needs to increase his dynamics to generate more edging of his skis. With narrow racing skis there is grip with even a slight lateral movement of the centre of mass – but with wider off-piste parabolics there is a bigger threshold where nothing happens and there is no feedback before the edge grip connects. During this threshold most people panic and just return upright. Parabolic skis are not the most grippy skis on ice either – because the whole of the edge is in contact with the ice and pressure is distributed along the edge. While this enhances carving is doesn’t maximise edge grip on ice – where skis which allow the pressure to be localised under-foot give the best ice grip.

Off Piste

The off-piste is very varied just now which doesn’t give people the opportunity to move very far without having to change technique! Mike was tending to “jump” the start of his turns – which is fine for pivoting sharp turns – but not when there is a bit of forward momentum. What was really needed here was to stand solidly on the outside ski and use pressure to get the ski to drive a turn. Alex picked up on this well and as a result is already rounding his turns out much better and controlling his speed through his “line” instead of his previous “braking actions”. There wasn’t much snow around which would allow the skis to pivot inside the snow so dynamics and strong pressure was all that would work. The key off-piste however when confronted with this situation is how the lift from the end of one turn is used to come over the lower ski into the next turn – but we didn’t have time to look at that. Tomorrow!

Face de Bellevarde

Alex managed to stay on my tail all the way down the Face, despite rocks and sheet ice in parts. I was seriously glad to have my old “rock basher” skis on! We mainly skied on bumps off the side of the piste and at no point did this throw Alex off. 

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